Thursday, June 30, 2011

Finals Week = War

Dear Week Before Finals Week,

Look, I know we're going to end up spending a lot of time together next week, but please don't read too much into it. You were kind of a jerk to me last time we hung out, and I haven't forgotten it.

Wait - let me finish. 

Now for the sake of my final grades, I'm willing to be civil, but I don't want you getting any ideas. If I had it my way, my final grades would have nothing to do with you, but that doesn't seem to be the way the system works. I'm sorry if that stings a little, but I think I should be honest with you. You deserve at least that much.  

Hoping we can still be friends,


P.S. I'm going to bed now. Please stop calling me, it makes you look desperate.

See Finals Week and I actually get along quite well, it's the week before that tends to kick my ass. During Finals Week I usually have one huge exam in every class, but I try to take all of them on the first day. The way I see it, I buckle down for one miserable day of test taking and then the rest of my week is free. Great in theory, but it makes for a seriously stressful week before...which is next week.

Let me shed a little light on the mystery that is the week before finals.

See I usually end up spending far too much time on the computer, which means that at some point (probably by Tuesday) I'll end up going crosseyed. During this time I will begin to put more effort into stalling than actually doing my homework, which will result in an overload of useless information (dancing chipmunks!) to my already ground-to-a-pulp brain. At some point, the frustrating monotony of coursework I have now deemed completely useless will probably push me into savant territory, where, still in my attempt to stall from studying, I may even turn out some seriously impressive blog-work (though I doubt it). Eventually, my lack of sleep, combined with dehydration and an overabundance of helpful cats will most likely cause me to have some kind of a minor stroke, and soon after my roommate will find me lying facedown in the kitchen, cuddling a tear-stained empty bag of Oreos.

I didn't say it was pretty, I'm just trying to warn you.

I still have one class left of course...some measly thing that's sure to hang around until the first week of August, but the thought of my courseload dropping from 18 credits to 3 has me frothing at the mouth...soooo clooooose...

So folks, if you get a rather bitter post in the next few days, don't take it personally. I am approaching the Doomsday that is Finals Week, and I have my game face on. This could get ugly.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Health Food Conquest #1: Quinoa

So here we go, experiment #1: Quinoa. Pronounced keen-wah. I've known of it's existence, but I've never tried it. Sounds like some kind of fruit, if you ask me.

First of all I should lay a little brick on this subject. Quinoa (as typically bought in the grocery store) is basically a seed. In more detailed terms it's actually a relative of leafy greens like swiss chard or spinach, but you'd never know it. Imagine tiny little brown seeds in a box. Not that appetizing, I know. But get over it. It's incredibly nutritious, with 1/4 cup containing 6 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and only 172 calories. 1/4 cup dry makes about 1/2 cup cooked (maybe even a little more). It's gluten free, and considering it's low number of calories in relation to nutrients like magnesium, iron, and phosphorus, it's an incredibly nutrient-dense food.

I know, I know, I get it. Besides the obvious nutrient content, why do you care? Let me put it this way: it makes you full, quick. It's an adequate protein source for vegans, and the amount of magnesium it contains has been shown to help things like migraine headaches and diabetes (specifically, insulin regulation).

Now I can spout off all this nutritional information 'till the cows come home, but the fact remains that if it tastes like dried up marshmallows shoved in an effin' cigarette box no one is going to eat it. So I tried it tonight, with some adjustments.

First I made it just how the box said, I just cut the amount in half (as I would be the only one eating it). The box says to boil 1/2 cup quinoa with 1 1/4 cup water, reduce to a simmer until it absorbs the water (about 15 minutes).

The verdict? Tasted like shi*t. I'll admit it, the texture was pretty good though. Fluffy, but with a bite. Definitely unique, but the taste was so bland I actually felt insulted for a moment. That's right, insulted by a seed.

So for the second time, I made it with chicken stock instead of water. Muuuuuuch better. "That's not too bad at all," said my boyfriend, with a surprised look on his face after eating the fork full I shoved in front of him. "I'd eat that." Alriiiight, now we're talkin'. Score one for the crazy hippy in the kitchen.

Now the main issue with foods like this (rice, pasta, etc), is we tend to eat way more than just one serving. One way to combat this is to fill as much space as possible with low calorie healthy alternatives. That way, no matter how good it is, it doesn't turn into an absolute calorie bomb if you decide to overindulge. So for this, I decided to go the vegetable route. One medium zucchini, for example, has about 30 calories. That's it. That's a helluva space filler.
The best way, hands down, that I've found to get the most flavor out of your vegetables, is to roast them. Chop them up, but them on a frying pan with some olive oil, garlic salt, pepper and onion powder, bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes and you're golden. Tonight, I had zucchini, yellow squash and baby tomatoes in my 'fridge, so that's what was going in the quinoa.

After the veggies were done roasting and the quinoa was done cooking, I combined everything together, and added a bit of lemon juice (to taste), some grated parmesan, and some chopped basil. The end result? Not too bad at all, if I do say so myself. Actually, the more I ate it the more proud of myself I became. By the third bite, I was in pure quinoa heaven. This stuff is fantastic!

Oh but here's the kicker folks...that whole "it makes you full" claim? Totally true. I planned on just making this for a side dish, and having something else as the main entree, but after I finished eating my side dish, only half of what I had made, I couldn't put another thing in my mouth. I was stuffed. And it's a different feeling than if I had just gorged myself, it's just...I don't know how to explain it. I'm just not hungry anymore. I'm sitting here blogging and watching baseball on TV, my roommate and boyfriend eating a plateful of spaghetti, and I don't have a single urge to get up and help myself to some noodles and sauce. Odd, but I'll take it!

Another great thing is you can add pretty much whatever you prefer. Want more of a "chicken soup" feel? Add some baked chicken cut into bite size pieces, and some roasted carrots and celery. Finish with some fresh thyme and parsley. Maybe go Greek, and add some artichoke hearts, olives, sundried tomatoes and feta cheese, lemon juice and salt and pepper. I even found a recipe with dried cranberries and cashews. I'm going to try that tomorrow night. Frankly, I'm looking forward to it. Why they heck have I never tried this stuff before? I'm absolutely a new fan of quinoa!

So for tonight's recipe:

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup chicken stock (or broth, always the lowest sodium you can find)
1 medium zucchini (cut into cubes/slices)
1 small yellow zucchini squash (cut into cubes/slices)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil (for roasting, not all will be added to quinoa)
2 Tbsp chopped basil
2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Makes 2 servings: 260 calories per serving.

A word to the wise: go easy on the salt. Between the chicken stock and parmesan cheese, this has a bit of a higher sodium content that some would prefer. I happen to make my own chicken stock (with no salt whatsoever), but this time I used store bought, taking into account most people don't have a cup of homemade stock on hand. I was lucky enough to find one with only 170 grams of sodium per servings, but a typical store bought low sodium broth/stock has about 570 grams of sodium, which is pretty high.

If you try this let me know, I'm going to try another version tomorrow...and I'm freakin' pumped about it!

 Blogging Hints Catch a Wave Wednesday     

Monday, June 27, 2011

Health Food Conquest

As my "about me" section explains, I'm a graduate student finishing my Master's in Mental Health Counseling while finishing another degree in Dietetics in order to acquire certification as a Registered Dietitian. My end goal is to be able to help people with various eating disorders, specifically those of the food addiction and overeating variety.

In order to be successful at this, I feel I need to know what I'm talking about. No point in telling someone, "Swap out white rice for quinoa, it's much healthier for you" if I've never eaten quinoa myself. What if it's utterly disgusting? What if it has an essence of cardboard and sweaty socks? Is that fair to recommend that to my clients? And if it is a super ingredient, wouldn't it be my job to be able recommend a tasty way to prepare it? Yes. Overall I think people know what they should eat, it's the challenge of making it palatable that they have trouble with.

So I'm taking a bit of a food adventure. I'm going to try some of these "health" foods that I've read so much about, and then I'll write a review about it. My initial first impressions, and then some possible ways to revamp it into something delicious. Some (like tofu) I have tried before and absolutely detest, but in the name of health, I'm going to have myself a little cook-off and see if I can make it delicious.

So right now I've got on my list; quinoa, tofu (eww), buckwheat pasta, lentils, oatmeal, brussels prouts, sardines...yup, I'm going to do it. Is there some incredible health food you wish you could eat (lettuce?) but just don't have the palate for? Leave me a comment and I'll add it to the testing list. I need to do this, people. If I'm going to be able to be a reliable dietitian someday, I need to have some expertise in this area besides just knowing the nutrition information on the back of the package.

So any requests? Anything you want to add to your diet but aren't sure how? Any recipes you use to make these foods delicious? Let me know, and I'll incorporate it. Oh and for the sake of everyone, I'll try and use wine somewhere in the ingredient list...if at least only for my own liquid courage during the taste-testing.

The Not-So-Secret Confessions of a First Time Mom     To-the-TOP Tuesday   

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Couples Who Fight In Public

To the couples of the world out there who insist on fighting with each other around everyone else because they think it proves they are more comfortable and more "in love" than the rest of us who are acting civil: knock it off. It doesn't work that way. It's awkward and annoying and you're making asses of yourselves.

I'll give you an example.

A few nights ago, my boyfriend and I went to dinner with one of his friends and his friend's new girlfriend. I'm not a huge fan of double dates when at least one person is an unknown, but his friend (which for the sake of this post we'll call "Frank") was eager for us to meet his new lady (who we'll call....hmm..."Beyonce"). Plus the restaurant we were meeting in is fantastic bad could it be?

It started out pleasant enough, "What do you do", "Where are you from", "I love your hair/top/shoes", but then it took a turn for familiar territory, and not the "good" kind either.

"Stop eating the garlic bread," Beyonce whispered to Frank with a nudge. "It makes your breath all garlicky." "We're at an Italian restaurant," he retorted, "Garlic is the reason people come to Italian restaurants."

She looked at me with an annoyed look on her face and rolled her eyes. Great, I thought. This is going to be a long night.

The waiter came by to take our order. "Can I get you anything to drink?" "I'll have a glass of wine," she said, and he turned to look at me.

"Best to just get me a bottle," I sighed. "I'm sure I'll be having more than one."

At this point I feel I need to make something clear: I rarely drink. Not that I don't enjoy it, I just don't have the time. If I'm going to drink, then damnit I'm going to drink, which usually means the entire next day and maybe even the one after that are rendered completely useless. I have to really weigh whether or not the next two days are going to be worth trading for one night of craziness.

And tonight?

Dinner went on. The comments came and went. Problem was I was assumed to be instantly on her side, and my boyfriend was automatically assumed to be the enemy. "Oh my god, how can you be so dense?!" she would exclaim at Frank, and then look in my direction with a, "Marlee understands, right? Guys can be so dense sometimes!" She would then shoot a disapproving look at my boyfriend, the horribly dense man sitting beside me.

I was right to get the wine.

Beyonce: "I told you not to wear that shirt. Why did you wear it?"
Frank: "I like this shirt."
Her: "It's too stripey."
Frank: "Too stripey?"
Me: "You see the thing about garlic is..."
Beyonce: "It has too many stripes. It's too bright."
Frank: "I like the stripes though."
Me: "It rhymes with 'schmarlic'."
Beyonce: "You never care what I think."
Frank: "Of course I do, I just like this shirt."
Me: "They should serve tacos here."
Beyonce: "You are so difficult."
Me: "Or burritos..."
My boyfriend: "Anything with beans really."
Frank: "I'm being difficult? Because I wore a shirt?"
Me: "Pinto beans."
My boyfriend: "I'm more of a black bean guy, myself."
Beyonce: "I can't believe you're acting like this."
Me: "I wonder if they have crayons here."
Frank: "Acting like what, a person who gets dressed?"
Me: "Blue ones. Pink, red, yellow, purple...people eater...bop bop bop..."
Beyonce: "Why do you want to fight so bad?"
Frank: "Why do you hate my shirt so much?"
My boyfriend: "Marlee put that down, it's not a toy."
Beyonce: "The only one who gets me here is Marlee."
Everyone at the table: "............"
Me: "More wine, please?"

I'd also like to make it clear that I'm not completely blaming the women here, because I know many, many a man who do the same thing. That is, complaining and embellishing their wives' and girlfriends' bad habits as a way of fitting in with the guys. I've even asked my boyfriend what he says about me to fit in.

"I say you have a third nipple," he replies, "And that it lactates when you get angry." I laugh. We go to bed. End of story.

Now I'm not saying he's perfect. So maybe he does watch multiple baseball games at once on split screen television while watching two more on "gamecast" on his laptop, while also managing his fantasy team and checking college baseball scores, but I kinda think it's slightly impressive. And maybe he likes to tape down the handle on the sink sprayer a little too often so when I go to get a glass of water in the middle of the night I end up startled and soaking wet. But come on, it is a little funny, isn't it?

My point is this; maybe if we all stopped bitching about our other halves so much we might come to see their "faults" as kind of endearing...I mean it's worth a shot, right?

And if not...well just make sure there's plenty of wine.

So Followed Saturday Sunday Blog Hop Shibley Smiles   

Friday, June 24, 2011

Stupid And Crazy: Update

So earlier I posted this explaining my plans to take a trip to a random country, that you choose, via the poll on the right. Right now it seems Italy is currently in the lead, which was daunting at first, considering it was at the high end of my price range. But I found I could get a ticket to Geneva, Switzerland at a much more reasonable price and then make my way to northern Italy. No decisions have been made yet, of course, as you still have roughly 20 days left to vote.

I also want to make sure I make this trip as informative as possible for all of you out there who are thinking of doing this someday (you know who you are). Therefore, I've been making a list of things I need to cover in my return blog. Anything specific you're interested in knowing? Comment below or shoot me an email, I'll be sure to include it!

Oh and if you haven't already, don't forget to vote!


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